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Career Story: Real Estate Appraiser For A Mortgage Lender

Real Estate Appraiser For A Mortgage Lender

Job Title: Real Estate Appraiser

Type of Company: I work for a national mortgage lender.

Education: BA, Music, Brandeis University

Previous Experience: I started as a real estate appraiser in 1987 and worked for that firm for 6 years. I later built an appraisal division for another company, built and ran my own company for 9 years, and have had 2 corporate review appraiser positions.

Job Tasks: When someone buys a house or condominium, they generally borrow 80% of the money from a bank or mortgage company. As part of the loan approval process, an appraiser looks at the property being purchased, compares it to other similar properties that have sold recently, and then estimates the market value of the property. If the value is the same or more than the purchase price, then the loan may be approved. If the value is less than the purchase price, it may not be approved. My job is to read the appraisal report, to verify as much of the data it contains as possible and decide if the appraiser's estimate is reasonable and well-supported. Often appraisers make mistakes and report incorrect data about the property being purchased, or about the sales that are compared to the subject property. Sometimes appraisers deliberately mis-report data because they are trying to sustain an inflated sale price when, actually, other similar properties are selling for less. Deliberately mis-reporting facts is committing fraud. Appraisers are licensed by the state in which they work, and there is a licensing board to which complaints can be submitted. If the licensing board agrees with my conclusion that the appraiser intentionally lied about significant data, then it can take his license away, or fine him, or require that he take more classes in proper appraisal procedures. In the worst cases, the information can be sent to the state's Attorney General, and the appraiser may be charged with a crime.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: My job is a bit like being a detective. For each report I review, I have to use the internet to find data sources, so I can compare public records to the appraiser's report. It is an interesting challenge. It can also be discouraging to find so many appraisers do not take the time to report the truth.

Job Tips: The most important thing for a trainee appraiser is to find a good appraiser to mentor you in the business. Use the state's website, or ask at a local bank, to find appraisers in your area, and call them. If they do not have openings for trainees, they might at least talk with you about the profession. They might know other good appraisers, or appraisal organizations, that you can contact about getting into the business. It takes about 6 months to learn how to write a good report, and 2 years to gain enough experience to become licensed.

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